Random Reploid angst. Likely wrote it just to write it, like most of my stuff. Surprisingly, doesn't pertain to any of my major characters.


The familiar rush of the teleport faded from her, the leftover tingling trickling from her limbs forgotten as she stared out over the smoking battlefield. A wearied frown tugged at her lips. Even her years of training and buffer programming could keep an emotional reaction from rising in her when she saw carnage of this magnitude. Several other medicals teleported in behind her, receiving her all-clear signal at the base.

She watched them go about their business in that efficient way they had and took a deep, tired breath, stepping into the battlefield. Her quest was to find Hunters, still alive in this sea of death, who hadn't teleported back in to base after the fight. It was far from her favorite task, for more often than not all she could do was watch and give a final comfort before they slipped into oblivion.

She scanned the city street, which was silent, save for the occasional moan of pain or whine of dying motor gear. Once in a while, she could hear the voices of her fellow workers, murmuring soft words of comfort to the dying.

Within her search radius, she found only two Hunters, one human and one Reploid, who showed any sign of life. The human died within five minutes of her finding him, apparently wanting only to see a friendly face before he could rest easy. The Reploid she immediately teleported to the medical lab; her wounds were severe, but they could be treated.

Casting about the battlefield once more, she took a sighing breath, trying not to breathe in too much of the air, foul with blood and death. The removal of the bodies would come later, the job of the med lab's mortuary, but the marks of the battle would remain for months, perhaps years. Battle-scarred walls, shattered stonework, stained sidewalks, all hallmarks of the past battle, would remain until the time and money were put in to repair and cleanse them. Humans, in all probability, wouldn't walk the streets for weeks.

She was making her final tour within her search radius, almost prepared to return to the lab and deliver her report, when a nearly inaudible mewl of pain reached her ears.

"Help -- me --" The voice was coarse, and her trained ears picked out immediately that the owner was a Reploid, two years old, from the sound of him. He also sounded like he hadn't all that much time left.

She walked briskly in the direction the voice had come from, finding herself in a dingy back-alley that reeked thickly of bloodshed. Half a dozen bodies, Reploid and human, lay strewn about -- some in pieces. She picked her way past them with determined medical detachment, eyes flicking about for the source of the voice.

A small movement in the shadows at the back of the alley drew her attention. He was a slim, humanoid Reploid, clearly not too old, and still-alert green eyes flicked out of the darkness to meet her gaze. He lay crouched around another figure in a defensive, almost mother-like, fashion. His expression was grim, little surprise to her, after the battle he'd been through.

"Here -- help?" He finished on an odd, questioning note, as if he couldn't determine whether she was friend or foe.

"Yes," she said to him without thinking, "I'm here to help." Her steps drew her swiftly to where he lay, and she knelt beside him, taking in his wounds with a casual glance.

Definitely not long to live.

A long gash ran down his torso to his belly; he'd been gutted, like a fish. One of his legs hung oddly at the knee, and he was badly scored from shoulder to throat.

It's a wonder he can still talk.

He gave another rasping breath, trying to tilt his head to look at her. "You --" he managed, and she frowned at him.

"Don't talk. I'm here to help."

He gave a low sigh, and his head drooped. She tensed for a moment, looking at him, and thought he might have just died, relieving her of the burden of comforting him. A moment later, though, he lifted his head and looked at her again, a lock of grime-caked hair falling into his face.

"Why --" he got out before she could stop him.

"I'm medical staff," she answered, still staring at his wounds and wondering where she should start. "It's my job."

"Even m--" He cut off with a gulp when she reached over to touch his throat wound.

As good a place as any, I suppose.

"Lie still," she said firmly, tugging out her field kit.

He did so, for a few moments, then he shifted his head again to gaze at the figure he was huddled around. "Will he --"

"Hush," she told him firmly, and he did. It was a good fifteen minutes before anything broke the silence again. She managed to seal the throat wound with some success, though if he moved around much more than he had been, it would open up again. Not that I think he can ...

- Medical Unit three-oh-oh-five, please report. -

She started, looking at her communicator, and he jerked slightly, almost tearing the wound again, as she'd predicted.

"This is Med Unit three-oh-oh-five, Kaelin," she murmured to the comm unit, working her way from the wounded Reploid's neck to his shoulder. He winced as she did, but he seemed more interested in the radio conversation than his wounds. "Treating a severe case, no other survivors."

There was a buzz of static as the personnel at the other end of the line digested that thought. - Clean-up crew is due at thirteen-hundred hours. - Another buzz of static, and the voice was gone.

An hour, that meant. An hour for this Reploid to die. She didn't think it would take him that long. Even as the thought cross her mind, she felt his gaze on her again, a wry, knowing gaze. She ignored it and continued working. She didn't feel much need to go back to the med lab yet ... not just yet.

She could feel him tensing up to speak and looked at him firmly, but her words died on her lips at his unfriendly glare. He was trying very hard to speak, and this time he would prefer no interruption. So she turned back to his wounds without a sound. She had nearly worked her way past the shoulder.

"Kae -- lin," he said, almost questioning her, and she nodded.

"That's my name."

That seemed to satisfy him for a moment, and he looked back at the figure he lay crouched around.

"Will he -- forgive me? -- Kaelin?"

Her hands paused in their work, and she turned her eyes upon his face. He was staring down at the figure in his arms -- the body, she now noted. It was younger and similar in build, though the hair, under the grime and circulatory fluids, was a shade darker. She had a guess.

"I'm sure he will," she said. "Now lie still."

He is lying still, she muttered to herself. He can't move.

"Couldn't --" He gave as deep a sigh as his pain would allow and closed his eyes.

She paused again, watching him, then returned to work when she saw his throat move slightly as he took a breath. She moved from there down to his damaged leg, avoiding the shattered mass of his chest. He opened his eyes again almost before she'd touched his knee, tensing in anticipation of the pain.

"Relax," she said to him. "It helps."

He did as he was told, giving a gruesome caricature of a shrug. "Can't feel -- chest."

"That means it's getting better," she lied to him blandly, and he seemed to take it as a joke, shoulders jerking in a gasping chuckle of amusement. "Now be still," she said.

"Did he --" the other Reploid began, then stopped, as if catching his breath. "-- go someplace --" Another painful pause. She examined his leg and discovered that it was half hewn off at the knee. "-- better?"

She stopped and looked at him then, leaning back on her ankles. That was a question she'd never heard before -- never heard from a Reploid before. From the humans, with their high-flown ideas of an afterlife, she heard it a great deal. A frown worked at her mouth. "I'm sure -- he did," she said finally. I wonder why . . . I wonder why he asked that.

"Couldn't save --" he muttered, eyes drifting to stare over her shoulder at nothing. She stared at his leg again, considering her options. She didn't think she could repair it. Not that it matters much. He's going to die. Cutting it the rest of the way off repulsed her, however, so she tugged out a couple of tools and set to work. His eyes suddenly snapped into focus on her profile. "You know --" He almost had a conversational tone, except where he had to break off in pain. "He came -- against orders."

"Be quiet," she said automatically, but he wasn't listening to her.

"Told him -- stay behind."

The knee joint was shattered. She fiddled with it for a few moments, not wanting to move on to his death wound. It's sick how long we can survive, she said to herself, settling back and staring at his face again. He had fallen silent, and her eyes moved to the other bodies in the alley. Sick.

"Dragged him here ..." his voice startled her, and she looked at him again, observing dispassionately that he was rapidly losing strength. I'd be losing strength, too, if my insides were splattered all over the alley.

"Told him to go back," he muttered. He wasn't even looking at her anymore. She stood up, packing her instruments back into her med kit, but he looked at her again, and she knelt down dutifully. "They attacked -- behind." His face twisted, and he would have spat, had he been able to. "Honorable -- huh."

She didn't understand what he meant. It must have shown in her face, because he gave her a look that resembled resignation. "Thank -- you," he managed to get out, then his gaze drifted back to the figure he was curled around. "I'll -- see him -- later?" Her eyes went vacant for a moment. She almost felt ill. "Kaelin!"

"Yes." She looked at him, and he grinned at her.

"Thank -- you," he said again. Thank you for lying to me. Then he slumped back, looking tired, and his eyes drifted shut. It took her a few moments to realize that he was no longer in need of comfort.

She stood up, then a faint gleam on the tarnished metal caught her eye. She knelt and reached out, brushing some of the grim away from the emblem on his left shoulder, then froze, staring silently at the emblem that gleamed quietly in the dim light of the alley. Her gut twisted, and she stood up, walking away to the safety of the Maverick Hunter medical lab.

At least she wouldn't have to file a report.